It is the beginning of November and we can already breathe Christmas.
The streets are starting to light up. The shops are adopting trees, sparkly objects and All I want for Christmas is you on repeat.
However, the weather is refusing to embrace Christmas yet. Snow? What’s that? For goodness’ sake, we are in November!
Here is some useful vocabulary with “yet” and “already” to talk about the annoying – for some 😉 – early Christmas:
Have you started your Christmas shopping yet?
No, not yet. It’s too early!
Have you written your Christmas list yet?
Yes, of course! I know what I want already. I have written a list to Santa Claus.
Have you decided what you are going to do for New Year yet?
No, not yet. Although, I have already bought my dress! It was on sale.
We hope you already feel more comfortable using “yet” and “already”. More importantly, we hope you have a wonderful November… without too much Christmas! 😉
Do you want to learn English or improve your English?
Do you want to improve your English or speak English NOW?
Do you want to speak English NOW or speak English NOW and feel good?
Here’s how to do that:
BUILD YOUR CONFIDENCE.
Have you ever wondered why you speak better with your teacher than in “real” situations?
Simply because you feel more confident.
Have you ever spoken badly in your native language because you were nervous?
It’s often not about what you are saying but who’s watching you.
Have you ever had a fluent conversation with someone in English and not been able to remember how you did it?
That’s because you were focused on the message and not on the grammar, vocabulary, pronunciation and “How you sound”.
Give yourself the permission to learn. Don’t be too self-demanding and definitely don’t try to be perfect. Ask yourself: What’s the worst that can happen?
Then… get out of your comfort zone! It’s honestly the only way to truly learn. Speak more in class, and when that becomes your comfort zone, look for as many “real” situations as possible, and go for it!
Each time you speak English it is a learning experience. If you don’t speak you don’t learn. As simple as that.
The more risks you take the more your confidence will increase. And your communication ability will jump to the next level. Try it and see for yourself.
As Tony Robbins said (in American English):
“If you do what you’ve always done, you’ll get what you’ve always gotten.”
Say goodbye to complicated explanations about the present perfect. Here we will give you two general rules, and three specific rules.
1) The present perfect is something that started in the past and continues in the present, or has a direct impact on the present.
2) We don’t specify the moment when the action or process took place (only the time-frame: Today, this month, this year etc).
1) An action that happened at an unspecified time in the past, and could be repeated in the current timeframe – this week, this year, this life (in the future) etc.
I have been to the gym three times so far this week.
Have you ever been to Russia?
No, I’ve never been to Russia.
I’ve seen that film twice.
JK Rowling has written X books (versus, Shakespeare wrote X books, as he is no longer alive).
*Be careful: If it’s the afternoon and you talk about “this morning”, that is considered to be the past simple tense: This morning I went to the doctor’s.
2) A process that began in the past and continues in the present.
You’ve got taller since the last time I saw you!
You’re English has really improved!
I’ve lived here for two years / I’ve lived here since 2013.
Have you finished yet?
No, I haven’t finished yet.
*If you move to another place you would say: “I lived there for two years”.
3) A recent action with a direct impact on the present.
Scientists have found alien life on Mars!
I’ve lost my keys!
He’s completed the level on the game!
She’s just been to the doctor.
I’ve finished my homework already.
*The answer to “I’ve lost my keys” would be in the past, to get specific information: “Really? When did you last see them?”
We hope that’s helpful!
In the Cambridge First (B2) Speaking exam it is important that you speculate.
This means debating the possibility or impossibility of something.
Let’s imagine we are detectives…
We have to discover who has eaten the chocolate cake in a family’s fridge…
Looking at our evidence we say:
“It COULD be the brother because he often eats sweet things.”
“It COULD also be the mother because she loves chocolate.”
“It CAN’T be the sister because she is away on holiday.”
“It also CAN’T be the father because he is on a strict diet.”
Wait! NEW evidence:
The father always eats with his hands. The piece of cake left has been broken my someone’s hands. Moreover, we have found chocolate stains on the shirt that the father wore that day. So we say….
“It MUST be the father who has eaten the chocolate cake! What about his diet?!”
1) In the speaking exam: Show the examiner what you know!
Don’t answer with one word or one sentence. If the examiner asks you a question in the present simple, first answer in the present simple. Then, surprise him or her by using an example in the past simple or the future… or even a conditional!
2) In the listening exam: Practice BEFORE the exam without headphones!
It is very different listening to the audios through your headphones to listening to it out loud. Make sure you practice without headphones to get used to it.
3) In the writing exam: Use short sentences and connectors.
Communication is always better when it is short, clear and precise. Do use some relative clauses but don’t write ridiculously never-ending sentences. You can link your sentences together with connectors such as “However”, “Moreover” etc.
4) In the reading exam: Read the question before the text.
That way you read the text intelligently, knowing what you are looking for. You will save time.
Enjoy these 4 tips, and remember: Practice, practice and more practice!
That annoying question. You know what you like but your mind goes blank. What do I like? Why can’t I think of anything? Am I boring?
No, you’re not boring :). With exam nerves it’s normal to panic sometimes. So, to avoid that, let’s prepare the hobbies question right now.
There are four main ways you can talk about your hobbies:
In my free time…..
I like + gerund
I like going swimming.
I love + gerund
I love travelling.
I enjoy + gerund
I enjoy having fun with my friends.
I + frequency adverb + present simple.
I usually read non-fiction books.
In the exam try to give examples in another verb tense. For example:
I love playing tennis. In fact, yesterday I played tennis with my best friend.
You can also impress the examiner with this:
If I had more time I would read more (second conditional, points, points, points).
I used to play the piano but now I don’t have time (“Used to” – more points).
So, don’t panic. You are not being marked for what you do but for how you say what you do. Keep it simple and learn the structures. And… enjoy! Go and watch a good film in English – with subtitles if you must. Make English one of your hobbies and all this will be easier! ;).
Student: I used to go out with my friends at the weekend.
Teacher: Ah, so now you don’t go out with your friends?
Student: Yes, yes, I used to… Ah no… I USUALLY go out with my friends!!
Teacher: Hehe, that’s right. Now, tell me something you USED TO do.
Student: AH, used to is like “solía”, isn’t it?
Teacher: Not exactly. It’s: “Antes era/hacía/decía etc”. For example: I used to be fat. This example doesn’t work with “solía”.
Student: AH, that’s true! OK, so, I used to be shy, and I didn’t used to go out very much. Now, I am very sociable and I USUALLY go out EVERY weekend!
Teacher: Fantastic! Now, tell me. Are you used to speaking English?
Student: Did I used to? Well, a little, at school. I didn’t SPEAK it very much, but I studied it.
Teacher: This is a different meaning of “Used to”. I am asking you if you are accustomed to speaking English.
Student: AH! Of course!! Yes, I suppose I am used to speak English… or at least, I am getting used to speak English – I am becoming accustomed. I have class every day, and I practice with my English-speaking friends once a week!
Teacher: Great! Just one correction. When we use “To be used to” as “To be accustomed”, or “Get used to” as “To become accustomed”, it is always followed by the gerund: I am used to speaking English.
Student: OK, perfect! I am used to English being confusing :P. I have got used to practicing a lot and being patient!!!
It’s that funny time of year where we decorate trees, eat and drink too much, and go shopping crazy! If an alien were to watch us from space what would he/she think? 😀
Do you want to improve your English for Christmas? Here’s how:
Enjoy English! Find websites, videos, songs, series, films, people, trips etc that motivate you! Start to love the language and ask for presents in English.
Here’s a grammar tip for Christmas:
When we talk about activities we like, love or enjoy doing we should use the gerund:
I like going out with my friends on Christmas Eve.
I love spending time with my family at Christmas.
I enjoy opening all my presents and watching my family open theirs!
Finally, a silly fact. It is often said that Santa Claus is red because of Coca Cola. While there is some truth in that, the colours are also said to be inspired by the original Saint Nicholas, who was the Bishop of Myra in the 4th Century. Red and white were the colours of traditional bishop robes.
So, have you been good this year? Will Santa Claus come down the chimney to visit you, or will it be the Three Wise Men brining your presents? 😛
Are you taking the Cambridge First (FCE) exam in 2015?
If so, don’t panic! There are three changes to the exam, and they are all positive!
1) The exam will be 30 minutes shorter than the current one.
2) The exam will have 4 papers, instead of 5!
3) The Reading and Use of English papers will now be combined!
The Reading and Use of English will last 1 hour and 15 minutes. It shows that you can understand texts from publications such as books, magazines and newspapers. It also tests your general language knowledge.
The Writing will last 1 hour and 20 minutes. It shows you can write different text types such as an essay, a report or a letter.
The Listening will last 40 minutes. It shows that you can follow a range of spoken materials, such as news and everyday conversations.
The Speaking will last 14 minutes. It shows you can communicate effectively in face-to-face situations. You take this part of the test with one or two other candidates.
You will receive a separate grade for each of the four skills (reading, listening, speaking and writing), and the Use of English. The scores are averaged to give you an overall result for the exam.
Now, to destroy a myth: the Cambridge FCE does not expire! Yes, a company or an educational institution may ask for a more recent certificate if you passed the exam more than 2 years ago, but there is no expiry date on the certificate – it’s for life.
For more information on the changes to the exam see here: http://www.cambridgeenglish.org/exams/first/exam-update-for-2015/
Enjoy your exam preparation!